Martin S. Wolfe, a tropical disease specialist who founded one of the country’s first medical practices devoted to ailments incurred in travel and who, in the 1970s, accompanied Henry Kissinger as his personal physician, died June 15 at his home on Block Island, R.I. He was 82.
The cause was a failure of his artificial heart pump, said his son, David Wolfe.
Dr. Wolfe developed an interest in tropical diseases as a medical student and, early in his career, spent five years doing field research in Ghana and Pakistan.
As a staff medical officer for the State Department, he traveled the world with then-Secretary of State Kissinger. He also served as a tropical medicine expert for the World Bank.
In 1980, Dr. Wolfe opened Traveler’s Medical Service, believed to be the first medical office of its kind in Washington. He also had an affiliated parasitology laboratory and a private practice.
Dr. Wolfe advised people making overseas trips about potential health risks and administered immunizations. If travelers returned with mysterious ailments, he often had to become a medical detective.
He determined a diagnosis by retracing a patient’s journeys to pinpoint where exposure to various maladies might have occurred. Dr. Wolfe often consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about infectious diseases found in other parts of the world but rarely seen in the United States, such as malaria, cholera and yellow fever.
He wrote more than 100 academic papers and textbook chapters about tropical medicine and travel medicine, which has become a recognized medical specialty.
Through his research and his work with diplomats and other international travelers, Dr. Wolfe became an authority on such exotic conditions as giardiasis and schistosomiasis, both of which are caused by parasites. The ailments, often linked to exposure to contaminated water, can lead to severe physical problems if left untreated.
Perhaps the most commonplace complaint of travelers returning to the United States was that they had developed diarrhea. Dr. Wolfe recommended that people travel with a supply of Pepto-Bismol or Imodium.
“The question we always ask in tropical medicine,” he told The Washington Post in 2008, “is where have you been and what have you been doing?”
Martin Samuel Wolfe was born April 9, 1935, in Scranton, Pa. His father was a tavern owner.
He was an Eagle Scout and captain of his high school basketball team before entering Cornell University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1957 and a medical degree in 1961.
One of his medical school professors encouraged his interest in tropical medicine, and Dr. Wolfe did research in Ghana from 1962 to 1964. After a residency in New York, he trained at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Wolfe conducted additional medical research in Pakistan from 1967 to 1970, when he joined the State Department.
He taught courses in tropical medicine and parasitology at the Georgetown and George Washington University medical schools and was a consultant for many years to the State Department, Peace Corps and World Bank.
Dr. Wolfe was a member of the International Society of Travel Medicine and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which presented him with its top award. He was a member of the Cosmos Club and Adas Israel Congregation.
Dr. Wolfe retired in 2015. The Traveler’s Medical Service in Washington is operated by his son, a physician; its New York branch is run by a daughter, a registered nurse and public health specialist.
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Lotte Brunes Wolfe of Washington; three children, Rebecca Wolfe Acosta of New York City, David Wolfe of Bethesda, Md., and Miriam Strouse of McLean, Va.; a sister; and seven grandchildren.